Why Does the Foundation Do Economic Development?

Why Does the Foundation Do Economic Development?

Why Does the Foundation Do Economic Development?

By Josh Gordon, Executive Director

In this continuing series on answering questions I get from community members about the Foundation I am finally able to address one of the most persistent questions I get – what is economic development, and why does the Foundation do it? 

Community foundations usually support local nonprofits to improve the lives of a community’s residents. That is certainly true of Barberton Community Foundation, only our mission extends support to the school district and City of Barberton, as well. All programs and initiatives we take on are designed to do the most positive for the most residents.  

The hard part is in answering this question: “Where should we focus?”  

Why? If you’re reading this, you know that our community is amazing! However, it isn’t perfect. (Yet!) 

There are questions we wrestle with in pursuit of doing the most positive for the most residents. Here are a few: 

How do we get more businesses to open and stay in Barberton? How can we help create more jobs, generating more income tax for the City? How can we make sure our neighborhoods are amazing for all residents? How can we make sure our graduates have opportunities for work and scholarships for college (if they are going)? How can we make sure every  child has a chance to go to preschool and get a head start on their academic life?  

These are just a few of the questions our highly accomplished – and 100% volunteer – board works on solutions for. 

Over the past decade, a consistent message from all board members in all strategic planning sessions is that we need more jobs and businesses in our community. Economic Development activities include work such as business retention programs, business attraction programs, land purchase, land development, land redevelopment, building purchase, building redevelopment, strategic planning, zoning, building public-private partnerships, and more. 

We are fortunate to have great partners in Mayor Judge and his office, Barberton’s Planning Commission, and more. But, the truth is, there is more work than all of us working together can accomplish. So we must divide and conquer, playing different, distinct roles so we can make progress.

3 Primary Ways the Foundation Helps with Economic Development  

#1 Helping Define an Economic Development Strategy  

One of my favorite quotes is “A problem well defined is a problem half-solved.” Charles Kettering – the head of research for General Motors from 1920 to 1947 said that.  

 It means that if we understand a problem completely – with data, opinion, thoughtful solution engineering, etc. – then we are better positioned to establish a permanent resolution.   

The Foundation helps to fund plans, works to create strategy, and learns what businesses need for support. Others in the community do as well. We compare notes and are working on establishing an “official” strategic plan for economic development that we can measure and show accomplishments from. Strategy must come first.  

#2 Convening Stakeholders 

That’s a pretty buzzword-filled subheading, huh? Essentially it means that when we need different organizations, officials, and experts to work together on a problem we are facing, they are usually willing to pick up the phone when the Foundation calls. We can convene them – get them in the same room – to discuss the challenges we are facing and help establish solutions. 

There are so many experts in specific areas – tax incentives, public-private partnerships, land acquisition, historic tax credits, commercial construction, commercial building redevelopment, etc. – that having all that knowledge in one person or entity just isn’t possible. It takes experts coming together around a problem to create progress. This is an area where the Foundation can really help.  

#3 Funding Solutions 

The Foundation provides grants and can make investments with our money. There are many, many rules for how we have to do that.  

We have more economic development needs and opportunities our community right now than we have funds. So, what can we do? 

We can fund targeted programs that help businesses. We fund programs that are executed in part by our wonderful partners at Barberton Community Development Corporation (BCDC).  

June 1 – June 30 business and building owners in Barberton can sign up for two amazing programs. Barberton Community Foundation is funding each at $100,000, with the goal of providing as many resources as possible to a business to help it grow and become more successful. It’s a reward for setting up shop in Barberton!  

The Economic Development Assistance Program (EDAP) is for established businesses that wish to expand their operation and must add jobs. They can apply for a grant through the Foundation, and approved concepts are passed along to BCDC for evaluation and “the green light” to begin.  

The Downtown Building Rehabilitation Program (DBRP) is for businesses in our downtown area that need grant money to improve their building or business. The money is only available for downtown businesses, because downtown is a very important part of the present and future success of our community.  

By backing economic development as a critical community initiative, and having an accomplished professional to help us run the programs such as our Director of Economic Development, Gil Gonzales, we are able to make progress on various economic development initiatives for our community.  

Focusing on developing Barberton’s economy – through the programs mentioned here and many more opportunities that are in motion (but early stage right now) – is a critical part of the Foundation’s work. We have a clear role to play, and we intend to play it well!  

Keep those questions coming! Economic Development is a vast and complex topic that will require more than this space to fully address. Look for more on this topic from the Foundation in the coming weeks and months!  


In Community,

Josh Gordon

Executive Director 

Barberton Community Foundation